Walking On Stage: Advice from An Underground Los Angeles Magician
My first visit to the Magic Castle was when I was 13 years old and I met Whit Haydn, a Magic Castle regular. He performed close up magic in one of the intimate rooms and entertained everyone with just a deck of cards. The sleight of hand, I could tell, was good, but it wasn’t earth shattering. Rather, he just really knew how to entertain and the audience loved him. He was the first professional magician I saw perform the type of close up magic I loved, and we became casual acquaintances thereafter.
A few years later I visited his Los Angeles home for a session: we showed each other what routines we were working on (he showed me more than I showed him…), and we chatted about performing. By that time, he had been performing around the country for at least 30 years, he had won practically every award from the Castle and I knew I was speaking with a legend in the magic community. And I wanted to absorb as much of his advice and insight as possible. I’m not sure what prompted it, but he told me how he approached walking out on stage, and it’s stuck with me ever since. He said if you watch Julius Caesar (1953), you’ll see how Caesar walked before his soldiers and commanded their attention. He didn’t rule with an iron fist, but his sheer confidence and self-assuredness emanated forth as he commanded. Haydn instructed this was the way to approach the stage. If you watch Whit Haydn perform, you will not draw the comparison from him to Julius Caesar, but if you’re watching closely, it’s clear he is in full control, he has utmost confidence in his ability, and that is absorbed by anyone participating in the show.
It’s not that the audience (or employees/meeting attendees for that matter) should be afraid as one might be in front of a ruler, but they also should not be doubting your ability. That sense of doubt ruins everything. They become uncertain and uncomfortable in their own space and begin to question your authority, implicitly or explicitly. And that’s why the confidence, composure, and power of a king (or queen), should be the backdrop of any performer (even a Pee Wee Herman type).